The Killers change their concept and wind up loving the result
Friday, September 07, 2007
Gary Graff

The Killers' sophomore album, "Sam's Town," is certified platinum. The first single, "When You Were Young," was nominated for two Grammy Awards. The group has been doing sellout business on the road.

But frontman Brandon Flowers is still ambivalent about how the group is being received -- especially at home -- after the 5-million-selling success of the group's 2004 debut "Hot Fuss."

"Actually in England and Europe, it's exactly what we wanted. It's been great," says Flowers, 26. "In America people have been a lot more cynical about it. It's really discouraging.

"But we didn't get great reviews on the first album, y'know. Everybody made fun of the lyrics on Somebody Told Me' and the choir on All These Things,' and we still sold 5 million records. So I understand it doesn't have that much effect, but it's just been discouraging when we feel we've made a great album."

"Sam's Town," which has sold nearly 1.3 million copies in the United States since its October release, certainly bulks up the New Wave-recalling sound of "Hot Fuss." It's a no-holds-barred soundscape that Flowers says draws freely from influences such as Bruce Springsteen and U2 and from thematic predecessors such as the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

"I don't think it's as immediate as Hot Fuss,' " says guitarist Dave Keuning, 31. "But it really grows on people. They listen the first time, and it's like, I'm not sure,' and then after, like, eight listens it really gets in your brain a lot more."

Ironically, the original intent was to make "Sam's Town" a more stripped-down affair, says Flowers, whose wife gave birth to the couple's first child, son Ammon, in July.

"I thought Hot Fuss' was too cluttered," he says. "We wanted to open up and strip it down."

Instead, the Killers, which also includes bassist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr., were seduced by the possibilities presented in the studio by producers Flood and Alan Moulder, whose credits include Depeche Mode, U2, Smashing Pumpkins and others.

"We wanted real strings and brass and anything else you can think of," Flowers says with a laugh. "We had the time now, and we had the money now to do all that, and it all just poured out on this record.

"And we love it. It's really fun to listen to, but it's definitely not stripped down. Maybe on the third album . . ."

That will have to wait, though. Keuning doesn't foresee the Killers getting back into the studio until next spring at the earliest. The guitarist says the group has "been jamming here and there in sound check," working up new ideas but so far has no conclusions about what direction it will take.

In the meantime, the Killers are happy to keep "Sam's Town" an active concern on the road.

"We feel these songs deserve to be seen and heard," Flowers says. "It's really fun, hopefully, to come and see a Killers show. We want it to be an adventure for people. We really put a lot into the live side of the band, too."